What the contenders need to win Wimbledon

June, 16, 2009
6/16/09
5:00
PM ET
Wimbledon, the most prestigious tennis tournament of them all, begins next week. It will be hard to top last year's rain-soaked, all-day-drama of a men's final, in which Rafael Nadal ended Roger Federer's reign as darkness settled in. Will those two return for Act IV of the Federer-Nadal Wimbledon saga, or do the other top men have a few surprises in store? Here's what the top men need for a perfect fortnight.

Rafael Nadal, confidence: How severe is Nadal's knee injury? It's unclear at the moment, though we should know more by this weekend. Even if his knees feel OK, can Nadal overcome the injury to his spirit? His uncle and coach, Toni, told the Spanish press this week that Nadal's chances are no longer as good, and that losing at the French Open has hurt his confidence. If he finds it by the end of the first week and starts to feel healthy, look out. If not, we might be in for another early exit, this one not at all surprising.

Roger Federer, calmness: Who could blame Federer for being giddy about winning the French Open and putting himself in contention for greatest player of all time? He'll have to put his happiness aside starting Monday if he wants to break Pete Sampras' all-time Grand Slam titles record at his favorite tournament. Will he be locked in or distracted by his Paris breakthrough? We haven't seen Federer play without the weight of history on his shoulders in almost two years. Something tells me his opponents won't find this a welcome sight.

Andy Murray, nerve: We'll state the obvious: Murray is the best player in the game to never win a major title. He could win one soon, as long as he can handle the stress of Britain's 73-year tennis curse (Fred Perry is the last man to win Wimbledon, in 1936). On paper, Murray is tough to beat. But how will he react on the second Sunday, especially if Roger Federer stands across the net?

Novak Djokovic, will: What has happened to the once-cocky Serb? He suffered a dismal loss at the French Open (to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fourth round) and then dropped the Halle final (on grass) against Tommy Haas. Djokovic says his loss to Rafael Nadal in Madrid has emotionally drained him. Indeed, that semifinal was a classic, but Djokovic needs to put it behind him before he wanders through another season without building on his early successes in 2008 (when he won the Australian Open).

Andy Roddick, luck: Roddick has already had some luck on grass this year. He injured his ankle at Queens Club and had to withdraw from the semifinals (bad luck there), but it seems the injury is not severe (there's the good). Roddick is serving better than ever this year and is having one of his best overall seasons. Here's his wish for Wimbledon: Put him in the same side of the draw with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and far away from that Federer guy. That's a piece of history Roddick wants no part of.

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